Or Conceptual Idealization An essay.
(I am in no way saying Janelle Monae’s work is lesser merely contrasting two great concept albums. Women are always ahead of the times.)
Concept albums are ambitious. Rock has had some defining major ones Tommy by The Who. Diamond Dogs by David Bowie (based on 1984) both considered highly successful.
We have Dirty Computer released wide in late April of 2018 by Janelle Monae.
A story of future times not to far off where people can be cleaned just like you would a computer- because they are called computers. The songs cover a variety of topics like freedom, sexuality, being yourself.
Then there’s My Machine released September of 2005 by Princess Superstar with it’s new electrosound merging with Hip Hop. Princess Superstar was known for how the album delves into themes like freedom, what is the self?, fame, and sexuality.
Can Dirty Computer exist without My Machine?
Absolutely. Looking how the two albums are essential in today’s environment is something of the standard. I say both albums are essential in the way the way they seek to entertain yet educate their audience.
So, In the in the interest of this not being a grueling read I will pick two songs from each album.
Ready? Lets Begin.
“Crazy Classic Life” Is a bop. For Summer. Forever. It unpacks so much about how much the American culture has changed. But, it hasn’t. It’s still got hope that change will happen and it let’s you feel it. This is an epic statement by Janelle Monae.
“I Like It A Lot” Blows up and demands attention in the way only someone called Superstar could. She promises she’ll show us something never seen before in terms of a rap album and I’ll believe it.
As I’ve said, both albums deliver on similar themes in different periods in time so it’s interesting to see how these ladies will shape future rappers. (especially women.)
“Pynk” I saw a criticism of the video for this song as “Janelle was absent on the day subtlety was taught “ and while all criticism is valid because it inherently belongs to us, the critics, I “that’s really….blatant sexism if this was Prince it’d be fine and sexy” The song is amazing. We need more, like it To equalize love songs. Its not an outright love song to someone, just the feeling of love and some sex maybe.
“Coochie Coo” I’ve had years to sit with this song. I love it. Princess Superstar is unapologetic and blatant about it being her pussy you were going to please. Oh boy, you better. This song was formative in my sexual identity when this came out after Riot GRRL but at a time when women weren’t talking about sex or being pleased by it.
(Foxy Brown and Lil Kim fans, I know…but in the context of story driven concept album…you gotta give me this.)
I kind of have always had soft spots for artists who can create a persona or a concept and carry it out. It’s always interesting to see how that work plays out. If it does change the culture. Or if it’s merely a dark blip on an otherwise brilliant career. One never knows when they start creating the path what journey their creation will take them on.